The 2007 AFC Asian Cup Final was a football match that took place on 29 July 2007 at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, to determine the 2007 AFC Asian Cup champion. Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1–0 with a header from Younis Mahmoud from Hawar Mulla Mohammed's corner in the 73rd minute sealing the victory.
Before the match, Iraq had never reached the final of the Asian Cup, let alone won the tournament, while Saudi Arabia had appeared in five of the last six Asian Cup finals, winning three of them (1984, 1988 and 1996) and finishing as runners-up in the other two (1992 and 2000). This final was only the second all-Arab final in Asian Cup history, with the other being the 1996 edition.
Iraq entered the game as underdogs; the team only won two of their eight pre-tournament friendlies and both wins were against teams that did not qualify for the tournament. Their manager, Jorvan Vieira had only been in charge of the team for two months while the team were forced to train outside of their home country due to the lack of safety in their homeland; they also suffered from poor facilities as they did not have enough kits to last the tournament and had to order a new set of kits with a different design on midway through the tournament, and they struggled to travel to the different matches due to passport and financial problems. In fact, the war-torn nation almost pulled out of the game after two bomb attacks targeting jubilant football fans who were celebrating the semi-final win over South Korea killed at least 50 people and injured 135 but they decided to play on to honour the dead. Most pundits believed that if Iraq managed to pip Oman to second place in their group, they would be knocked out at the quarter-finals, but Iraq ended up finishing top of their group and then winning the whole tournament.
The result saw thousands of Iraqis spilling onto the streets to celebrate the victory, and the win temporarily united the fractured nation, as Sunnis, Shias and Kurds celebrated with each other despite their opposing beliefs, a reflection of the team itself that consisted of players from all three groups. Iraq's victory in the tournament is seen as one of the greatest giant-killings in international football history and one of the sport's greatest fairytale victories, and commentator Simon Hill described the team as "a team without hope, bringing joy to its fractured nation" and "succeeding where the politicians were failing". The win saw Iraq qualify for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. The tournament's closing ceremony was held immediately prior to kickoff.
The final was played between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iraq, coached by Brazilian Jorvan Vieira, qualified for the final after topping their group thanks to draws with Thailand and Oman either side of an emphatic 3–1 win against tournament favourites Australia. A 2–0 quarter-final win over co-hosts Vietnam followed before they defeated South Korea in a penalty shootout in the semi-final to qualify for their first ever Asian Cup final. Saudi Arabia, also led by a Brazilian coach (Hélio dos Anjos), topped Group D before 2–1 and 3–2 wins over Uzbekistan and Japan respectively in the quarter-final and semi-final stages saw them into the final. For Iraq, victory would bring its first ever Asian Cup title, whereas Saudi Arabia were hoping for their fourth title.
Before the game, the record between the two sides was 12 wins for Iraq, 8 wins for Saudi Arabia and 7 draws. Iraq's most recent victories had come in the form of 5–1 and 2–0 victories at the 2005 West Asian Games and a 2–1 win at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup, meanwhile Saudi Arabia defeated Iraq 1–0 in the 1996 AFC Asian Cup and had also won the most recent match between the teams with a controversial 1–0 win in the 2007 Gulf Cup of Nations.
Among the players in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup squads, the following played in the 2004 meeting which Iraq won 2–1:
The match ball for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup Final, announced on 15 May 2007, was Nike's Mercurial Veloci. The ball features four blue streaks with gold coloured trim with each host city's name inscribed, as well as the logo of the AFC Asian Cup.
Mark Shield, from Australia, was named as the referee of the final, together with Turkmen Begench Allaberdiyev and Maldivian Mohamed Saeed as the assistant referees, and Kuwaiti Saad Kamil Al-Fadhli as fourth official. Earlier in the 2007 Asian Cup, Shield took charge of the South Korea–Saudi Arabia and Indonesia–South Korea matches in the group stage. He had previously taken charge of the 2006 AFC Champions League Final (second leg) as well as matches in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the 2004 AFC Asian Cup and the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Both teams named unchanged starting line-ups from their semi-finals. Iraq dominated the first half of the match, and had chances to score through Qusay Munir and Younis Mahmoud before Karrar Jassim's shot was saved after a mazing run through the Saudi defence. Saudi Arabia's first real chance was a long-range shot from Taisir Al-Jassim in the second half which was well-saved by Noor Sabri. The Saudis survived a scare when Younis Mahmoud and Nashat Akram both had close-range efforts saved in quick succession by Yasser Al Mosailem. Saudi Arabia struggled to deal with Nashat Akram's close control and creativity in midfield as he carved out a number of chances for the eventual champions, and the deadlock was broken on 73 minutes when Younis Mahmoud sent Hawar Mulla Mohammed's corner looping over a flailing Al Mosailem and into the back of the net with a header to send the Iraqi fans wild and put them within touching distance of a remarkable victory. Despite taking the lead, Iraq continued to attack the Saudi goal with Nashat playing Younis through on goal with a delightful pass only for the striker to slide the ball right at the Saudi 'keeper, wasting a chance to put the game to bed. For all their domination, Iraq were left holding their breath in injury time when Saudi Arabia striker Malek Maaz's header bounced just over the crossbar, but the final whistle blew soon after to signify that the Lions of Mesopotamia had won the Asian Cup for the first time.
After the match, Nashat Akram was named the "most valuable player" of the game, with Younis Mahmoud receiving the award for "most valuable player" of the tournament and sharing the top scorer award with Yasser Al-Qahtani and Naohiro Takahara. The Iraqi team, a mixture of Sunni, Shia and Kurdish players, received international acclaim as they helped unite the people of a fractured, war-torn nation and bring them happiness that they so rarely get to enjoy. Iraq's manager Jorvan Vieira said he was proud of how the players won the cup with such little preparation and without being allowed to play national games in their own country but also announced that he was stepping down as Iraq manager after the victory.
The team, a mixture of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, received worldwide acclaim for becoming continental champions from a background of bloodshed and violence and helping to temporarily unite a fractured nation.
Football commentator Simon Hill described it as "unbelievable" and one of football's greatest fairytale victories:
"The fairytale is complete. The team that barely ever trains together, the team who can't even play in their own country, the team without a home base, the team without a coach until two months ago, the team left waiting in a hotel lobby for hours, the team who struggled to travel because of their passports… the team without hope has brought joy to its fractured nation. Football succeeds, perhaps you could say, where politics has failed. Iraq are champions of Asia - unbelievable!" – Simon Hill
Iraqi football journalist Hassanin Mubarak echoed similar statements:
"Eleven footballers, just ordinary individuals, had done what the whole Iraqi parliament could not do: unite a nation and bring smiles to people’s faces instead of tears and suffering. The Iraq national team has succeeded where politics has failed." – Hassanin Mubarak
Waleed Tabra, media officer for the national team, said that he couldn't find the words to describe the joy brought on by the win:
"Hundreds of thousands of people in every city are celebrating the victory. My family said it is something unbelievable. People don't know what to do; they're all crying with happiness. Traffic is everywhere. It's extremely meaningful. I spoke to a young boy this morning who said "if only our prime minister would learn from the team". For the past four years they've been going through so much hardship. The team have actually been living the same hardship as the people do here. They have been riding high on a wave of national support and have made their country's greatest national sporting achievement. Iraq has never been in the final and under these extremely difficult circumstances this is the biggest win this nation has ever had. It's quite incredible to see celebrations like this far away from politics." – Waleed Tabra
Iraq midfielder Nashat Akram, who expressed after the game that there is "only one Iraqi people" and that the win was for them, has since described the poor conditions and preparations that the Iraqi team faced before the tournament:
"Our situation before the competition started was appalling in nearly every aspect you could imagine. We’d recently lost two matches against South Korea and Uzbekistan. Prior to the tournament, the planning, organisation and team selections were woeful. We barely had any time to regroup before the tournament started too. Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect much from us in terms of progression after the difficulties we experienced. The squad turned up to the Asian Cup with only one shirt for each player. We had to wear the same shirt when we went out to eat and during travels. We only had the one match kit too! Our group games were on the 7th, 13th and the 16th of July – I had already booked my ticket home on the 17th because I fully anticipated us getting knocked out early." – Nashat Akram
British football journalist James Montague has since described it as the best achievement in international football:
"I'm not sure any international achievement tops Iraq winning the 2007 Asian Cup. They were a country at war with sectarian bickering in the squad, and then they turn up to the tournament at the last minute (economy class) and start winning. Every player had lost someone in the war. Players had relatives killed or kidnapped during the tournament. All of them had death threats. And when they won, crowds would celebrate on the streets in Baghdad; suicide bombers would target them leaving hundreds dead. Players wanted to stop playing and the semi-final versus South Korea was worse. They watched the aftermath and the celebrations in the dressing room after the game. There were 50 dead. But the grieving mother of a young boy who was killed pleaded with the cameraman that they should win it for her son, so they played the final, and won." – James Montague